Apple and Facebook, NBC reports, will pay for female employees to have their eggs frozen, becoming the first major employers to cover egg-freezing for female workers for non-medical reasons. Facebook recently started coverage, and Apple will begin in January. The decision has been praised by some as a way of “leveling the playing field” for women in the workplace by allowing women to postpone pregnancy to focus on work, while others see it as one among many perks corporations use to keep people working longer and harder -- and keep them away from competitors.
“Not since the birth control pill has a medical technology had such potential to change family and career planning,” wrote author Emma Rosenblum in an article on egg-freezing or “oocyte cryopreservation” for Business Week. The average age of women who are freezing their eggs is 37, according to Business Week, and fertility doctors say more women in their early 30s are getting the procedure done. It costs about $10,000 for each round of egg-freezing, while storage costs are around $500 annually. Both Apple and Facebook are covering up to $20,000 in egg-freezing costs.
Others see egg-freezing in the positive light Rosenblum does, including Philip Chenette, a fertility specialist in San Francisco, who told NBC he saw the benefit a “payback” for the women’s commitment at work. But others worry that what looks like a perk could end up being tacit pressure not to raise families. “[W]ould they [women] take this as a signal that the firm thinks that working there as an associate and pregnancy are incompatible?” asked Glen Cohen, co-director of Harvard Law School’s Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology and Bioethics, in a Harvard blog post. Valleywag's Nitasha Tiku finds the coverage comparable to a well-stocked, on-site cafeteria, a “lavish amenity designed to keep workers in the office and fixated on the job.”
Because freezing eggs does not guarantee that women will eventually give birth when they are ready, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, according to the NBC report, cautions women against relying on egg freezing as a means of delaying fertility. It also doesn’t keep data on how many babies are born from frozen eggs. Since the ASRM stopped labeling egg-freezing as "experimental," fertility doctors in New York and San Francisco say that egg-freezing has doubled in the past year, and fertility doctors are reporting that more women in their early 30s are coming in for the procedure.
This would not be the first time Facebook has been in the news for its progressive -- and generous -- perks centering around the issue of parenting. It already offers four months of paid leave to full-time employees who are mother and fathers, including same-sex couples. Their policy covers adoption, and new parents get $4,000 in "baby cash" for each child an employee gives birth to or adopts.